WHAT: Casio G’zOne Type S
HOW MUCH: $150 w/ 2-year contract (MSRP $270)
It's been nearly a year since I dropped my Motorola Razr off a chairlift in Canada. I remember it well: I was rooting through my backpack for something, Whistler's late-summer Crankworx festival was booming at the base of the mountain, where the lift line was queued up a half-hour, and after I dropped it the Razr's slim profile sliced through the air like a ninja star, piercing the thick brush below and connecting with the rocky substrate with a plastic-metallic crunch.
I knew immediately that I was once again in the market for a new phone. But what I remember most was not really caring. It was my third day ever riding Whistler, I was giddy with speed and air and chance, and if all I broke was my phone then I would giggle all the way to the bank. But I also didn't mind because I'd had my eye on a new phone for some time: The military-spec Casio G’zOne—and here was the perfect opportunity to get one.
Nearly a year later, I'm here to say this phone lives up to the marketing claims—and as my witness, the phone is sill around to prove it.
The Casio G’zOne continues in the tradition of Casio's legendary G-Shock watches-those simple but rugged and indestructible timepieces that anyone who's ever had one knows will get lost before it gets broken.
Yes, if you've ever accidentally dropped, cracked, dampened, soaked, splashed or dunked your cell phone, then this phone is well worth a look.
But more to the point, if you've ever thrown your phone out the window of a moving car, plunked it into someone's drink when they weren't looking, or if you've ever skipped it across a parking lot like a hockey puck just to watch it smack sickeningly into a curb 20 yards away then this phone is *most definitely* for you.
I've done all of these idiotic things to this phone. Often, like when I threw it onto the road out of the window of a car that was moving maybe 20 mph, I had a momentary flash of "Oh boy, now I've done it." But every time, sometimes after reassembling the solidly-secured battery that still somehow would eject itself, I'd wait and pray for the Verizon logo to light up the black screen. And even when I was sure that I'd killed the G’zOne, that I'd taken it too far, it came back for more.
In the name of journalistic obligation, I beat the crap out of this phone. Realistically, you're not going to throw your phone down the length of a parking lot. But it's nice to know that it's built to military specifications. If you read the fine print you'll find it's build to withstand a drop of 1.5 meters 26 times each on every face and corner of the phone. It can, and did, and then some.
Its battery unit is hermetically sealed, as is the phone body itself, and its charger and hands-free ports both have rubber seals to keep water out. The phone is advertised to withstand being submerged in a meter of water for 30 minutes, and while you're probably not going to test that claim, it's nice to not have to worry about answering your phone with wet hands, getting caught in a rainstorm or stuffing it into a soggy hydration pack. If you live in a state where a hand-free device is required while driving, you might not even need the super-sealed hands-free port, which requires use of an included adapter, because the G’zOne comes Bluetooth-ready.
A bonus feature of the phone is its LED flashlight. I used this countless times after, say, turning all the lights off in the house and then navigating the stairs to go to bed, or looking under the hood of a car or any other imaginable situation you find the need for a flashlight.
Another real-world situation where the phone's utility shined through came when I was dog-sitting a dumb-as-rocks golden retriever. Not to be outdone by the fetch-the-stick obsessed dog, I managed get the stick lodged high in a tree on an errant throw. Feeling slightly stupid, the dog and I stared at the stick, stuck maybe 15 feet up an un-climbable tree. I looked around for something to throw up and dislodge it with but there was nothing to be found in the manicured park. All I had with me was a leash and the G’zOne. Channeling MacGyver, I latched the phone to the leash and spun it around like a grappling hook until I knocked the stick down.
But it wasn't all sun and roses with the G’zOne. First off, if you have a carrier other than Verizon, then you need not apply. The phone goes for $150 with a 2-year service agreement.
The first comment I usually get about the phone is about its bulk. It's not huge, but compared to the latest crop of anemic designer phones, it's pretty easy to tell what pocket you're holding the phone in. On the upside, I had a hard time losing the G’zOne, and it's easy to quiet naysayers by wowing them with a show of the phone's indestructibility—which I found myself doing proudly and often.
This phone has found its way to the bottom of probably a dozen pint glasses. A few times those glasses had beer in them, and sometimes a hangover of fuzzy microphone and speaker performance ensued, but the phone always bounced back to normal after a few days.
Functionally, the phone works just like my Verizon Razr did. It has a 200-phone number memory and all the bells and whistles you could ask for: calendar and reminders and a calculator and multiple alarm clocks. The text messaging software was pretty basic, but that you can send texts underwater helps make up for it.
While the phone took and stored seemingly unlimited pictures at 480-by-64o pixels and up-to-15-second video at 176-by-144 pixels, the text-message inbox fills up at 50 messages, which sounds like a nit-pick but also sounds like an oversight that could be easily corrected.
Another downside of the exotic phone came while traveling. I'd left my charger at home and headed to a Radio Shack to pick up a replacement. I was in New York City, and thought for sure a fair-sized electronics store would have what I needed. But even though they sold and supported Verizon Wireless phones and plans, the clerks had never heard of my phone. "Casio? Like the watches?" No dice. Lesson learned.
Quibbles aside, after 10 months of utter abuse, the phone still works. It's scuffed and scarred and beat up, but still ticking. Lately it has taken to turning off abruptly when I snap the flip-phone closed, but I can still consistently coax it back to life, and all in all, such narcoleptic tendencies are a small price to pay for the life of violence I've put this phone through.
One unforeseen downside of using the phone for nearly a year is my disregard for the safety of all other electronics, and I've since found myself tossing cameras and laptops around willy-nilly. As for the fall from the chairlift, I don't know if the G’zOne would survive such a plunge, but I'd have gone back for the G’zOne to find out.
The bottom line: This phone is a solid investment, regardless of whether or not you're a lout with electronics. If the bulk of the G’zOne is your only quibble then watch out for a slimmer version rumored to be in the works.